BOSTON — Terry Francona didn’t want Thursday night to be all about his return to Fenway Park.
But let’s be realistic: It was.
And it was as special as it was sentimental. His first-place Cleveland Indians pounded out 16 hits en route to a 12-3 blowout of the Red Sox.
The win came against the team that showed Francona, who led the Red Sox to their first two championships since 1918, the door after a 2011 collapse (he quit before he was fired).
“I tried really hard, as we talked before the game … I didn’t want to make it harder on our players. I thought that was unfair,” Francona said after the Indians ended a two-game losing streak with their 19th win in the last 24 games. “I tried to keep my emotions inside.”
That was made a bit more difficult after the first inning, when a video montage saluted four ex-Red Sox players now with the Indians. Then Francona was shown standing next to third base coach Brad Mills (his bench coach in Boston) in the dugout; Francona touching his hand to his heart and waving.
“That little montage they had was pretty cool,” said Cleveland’s Mark Reynolds, who had three hits and three RBIs. “I think it was a class act by the Red Sox.
“Tito, two world championships, playoffs almost every year — it was just neat to see the organization do that for him. And I think I saw him teary eyed a little bit during that thing. It was pretty neat and I was glad to be a part of it.”
With Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti in town to back his manager (Francona called it “moral support”), Francona’s pregame visits included one with Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino.
“He was very kind,” Francona said. “Larry and I, actually — I texted with him a few times, like when they hired John (Farrell as manager) and then when I got hired here.
“There’s an enormous amount of respect. And again, not to dig up old — I didn’t like the way things ended, but that doesn’t — he went out of his way at the (100th) anniversary (of Fenway) and I probably wasn’t the most pleasant, and tonight he just came down to say hello, which I appreciated.”
He also appreciated what his team, swept in a three-game home series against Boston in April, did to send the second-place Red Sox (28-20) to their third loss in the last four games.
Reynolds, Drew Stubbs (three RBIs) and Michael Bourn (two) smacked three hits apiece, with Stubbs stroking a triple and two doubles. Every Cleveland starter had at least one hit in the Indians’ sixth double-figure scoring output of the season.
All this after the team charter didn’t land in Boston until almost sunrise Thursday after rain delays at home Wednesday night.
Zach McAllister, unbeaten in his last five starts, worked the first five innings to raise his record to 4-3. He yielded a three-run homer to David Ortiz to make it 4-3 in the third, but the Cleveland bats took over from there, capping their assault with a six-run sixth.
Scott Barnes, a Springfield, Mass. native recalled earlier in the day, pitched the last three innings for the save, his first in the major leagues.
Boston’s Ryan Dempster (2-5) lasted only three innings and is 0-3 in his last four starts, allowing 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings in the last three. He has walked 10 and thrown 212 pitches in 7 2/3 innings in his last two.
“Obviously it’s command,” Farrell said.
Farrell, Francona’s pitching coach from 2007 to 2010, called the video tribute “well deserved,” adding, “I think it was a touch of class to acknowledge the eight years he spent here, the eight successful years.
“Obviously, he’s in a good place now as well.”
Boston’s Will Middlebrooks left after four innings with lower back spasms. Farrell said Middlebrooks may have hurt himself coming out of the batter’s box in his last at-bat in Chicago on Wednesday night.
“He’s day to day,” the manager said.
Hours before the game, Francona met the media in the visiting dugout, saying, “When Boston was playing us in Cleveland, the city was going through the Marathon thing, and I was trying to be very respectful. It’s different coming here for sure.”
NOTES: The crowd reacted during the game to Bruins updates. … Cleveland was again without 1B Nick Swisher, away on a maternity leave after the Tuesday birth of his daughter. He’s expected back Friday. … The Red Sox reportedly signed LHP Rafael Perez to a minor league contract. … The Indians designated LHP David Huff for assignment, recalling Barnes. … RF Shane Victorino was again out of the Boston lineup with his continuing back problem. “He’s still day to day. He’s unavailable tonight,” said Farrell, who still hopes to not out Victorino on the disabled list. … Former Boston prospect Justin Masterson, sent to Cleveland in the 2009 Victor Martinez deal, faces his old team for the seventh time, the second this year, when he goes against John Lackey in Game 2 of the series Friday night. … The Indians haven’t won a series in Boston since 2005. … LHP Franklin Morales (back) and C David Ross (concussion) formed the battery for Boston’s Double-A Portland club on Thursday. Morales got the win with five innings of work and Ross was 1 for 3 with a double, an RBI and run scored. Morales has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. … Farrell, asked before the game about Francona’s claim that Boston is one of the toughest places to manage, said, “Well, I’ve only had one other managing job to compare it to. I think the individual expectations are higher than the external ones. We’re just 47 games into this. After 162, I might have a different answer, but right now, it’s a great place to be.” … Bourn threw Jacoby Ellsbury out at the plate just before Ortiz’s home run.